The federal government is "increasingly concerned" over a flurry of trade attacks by Beijing after lamb became the latest product sanctioned by China.

Lamb joins a long list of Australian products sanctioned by China that also includes barley, timber and beef. A sixth Australian beef exporter was hit with a ban on Monday.

Tariffs up to 200 per cent were also slapped on Australian winemakers, while China also threatened Australia's international student market.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the government had become "increasingly concerned" by the number of sanctions imposed by Beijing. He told parliament the government had raised the concerns directly with Beijing and left open the option of taking a complaint to the World Trade Organisation.

"These disruptions have increased significantly in recent months," he told parliament.

"The targeted nature of Chinese government (sanctions) on Australian goods raises concerns about China's adherence to the letter and spirit of both its ChaFTA (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) and WTO obligations.

"We continue to raise issues of apparent potential discriminatory actions targeted against Australia. The Australian government is considering old dispute settlement options in order to support our exporters and ensure they can compete on fair terms."

 

It comes after China blocked imports from JBS Brooklyn and Australian Lamb Company, two exporters that were briefly shut due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

China has continued to accept imports from lamb companies in the US that have also suffered outbreaks.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was working to ensure the exports resumed.

"We continue to raise the recommencement of exports from these facilities with China through our agriculture counsellors and DFAT officials in Beijing," he said.

"We remain open to constructive engagement with China and will continue to press for a relisting of these establishments as soon as possible."

Lamb joins a long list of Australian products sanctioned by Beijing. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui
Lamb joins a long list of Australian products sanctioned by Beijing. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui

The ban comes after Beijing suggested COVID-19 may have arrived in China in frozen meat, including Australian steaks.

The claim appeared in Beijing's mouthpiece, the Global Times, and sparked widespread derision in Australian media.

In an editorial on Tuesday, the Global Times insisted Australia was referenced just once in the piece, accusing Australian media of "attempting to deflect the blame".

"Tracing the origin of the virus is a major issue that concerns the success or failure of humanity's COVID-19 fight," it read.

"The Global Times has worked hard for this. But Australian media outlets see it as a new battlefield for public opinion and political struggle."

It comes after over a week of deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra, prompted by the Chinese foreign ministry tweeting an image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Relations have deteriorated since China foreign ministry tweeted this image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the neck of an Afghan child. Picture: Twitter
Relations have deteriorated since China foreign ministry tweeted this image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the neck of an Afghan child. Picture: Twitter

The tweet referenced the Afghan war crimes report, which found evidence elite Australian soldiers murdered 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.

The government and opposition have called for China to take down the tweet and apologise.

Beijing has refused to do so, while Twitter has failed to act on a request from the government to remove the post.

The Global Times said Australia's attack on its COVID-19 claim was an attempt to distract from the damning Afghan report.

"Australia has lost its moral high ground in its troops' brutal murders of Afghan civilians," it said.

"Feeling embarrassed, it now wants to save face. But facts are facts. No matter how hard Australia tries to condemn China, reality will not change."

Originally published as China hits Aussie lamb with sanctions


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